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Call No. - Og Accession No. \^S TGa 

E- ?C C 

Author f>S. o M j 

Title ddltcJC,^ — . 

jP So v-i . 

This booR should be returned on or before the date 
last marked below. 


Books by William Empson 









COPYRIGHT, 1935, 1940, 1949, BY 

All rights reserved, including 
the right to reproduce this book 
or portions thereof in any form. 

first American edition 



Everything, Bhikkbus, is on fire. What everything, Bhih 
khus, is on Ere? The eye is on Ere, the visible is on Ere, 
the knowledge of the visible is on Ere, the contact with the 
visible is on Ere, the feeling which arises from the contact 
with the visible is on Ere, be it pleasure, be it pain, be it 
neither pleasure nor pain By what Ere is it kindled? By the 
Ere of lust, by the Ere of hate, by the Ere of delusion it 
is kindled, by birth age death pain lamentation sorrow 
grief despair it is kindled, thus I say. The ear .. . say. 
The nose . . . say. The tongue . . . say. The body . . . 
say. The mind . . . say. 

Knowing this, Bhikkhus, the wise man, following the 
Aryan path, learned in the law, becomes weary of the eye, 
he becomes weary of the visible, he becomes weary of the 
knowledge of the visible, he becomes weary of the contact 
of the visible, be becomes weary of the feeling which arises 
from the contact of the visible, be it pleasure, be it pain, 
be it neither pleasure nor pain. He becomes weary of the 
ear .. . pain. He becomes weary of the nose . . . pain. 
He becomes weary of the tongue . . . pain. He becomes 
weary of the body . . . pain. He becomes weary of the 
mind . . . pain. 

When he is weary of these things, he becomes empty 
of desire. When he is empty of desire, he becomes free. 
When he is free he knows that he is free, that rebirth is 
at an end, that virtue is accomplished, that duty is done, 
and that there is no more returning to this world; thus he 


This edition includes all the verse in Poems (Chatto and 
Windus, 1935) and The Gathering Storm (Faber and 
Faber, 1940), with the notes to individual poems in those 
books and the 1935 introduction to them, also Letter 
which was published as a leaflet by Heffer's, Cambridge, 
in 1929. I have made a few textual changes. The three 
short poems at the end are my total output during the war 
years, and acknowledgment for the last is due to an an- 
thology, The War Poets (The John Day Company, 1945). 

The poems are roughly in the order of their writing, but 
though ^^Bacchus’' was planned and begun in Japan in 
1933 the middle parts of it only got finished in China in 
1939, so by the time rule it might as well have been put 
after ‘‘Nan-yueh.'" 

W. E. 





THE world's end 6 






















































Notes 87 




We tunnel through your noonday out to you. 

We carry our tube's narrow darkness there 
Where, nostrum-plastered, with prepared air, 

With old men running and trains whining through 

We ants may tap your aphides for your dew. 

You may not wish their sucking or our care; 

Our all-but freedom, too, your branch must bear, 
High as roots' depth in earth, all earth to view. 

No, by too much this station the air nears. 

How small a chink lets in how dire a foe. 

What though the garden in one glance appears? 

Winter will come and all her leaves will go. 

We do not know what skeleton endures. 

Carry at least lier parasites below. 



Celestial sphere, an acid green canvas hollow, 

His circus that exhibits him, the juggler 
Tosses, an apple that four others follow, 

Nor heeds, not eating it, the central smuggler. 

Nor heeds if the core be brown with maggots' raven, 
Dwarf seeds unnavelled a last frost has scolded, 

Mites that their high narrow echoing cavern 
Invites forward, or with close brown pips, green folded. 

Some beetles (the tupped females can worm out) 
Massed in their halls of knowingly chewed splinter 
Eat faster than the treasured fungi sprout 
And stave off suffocation until winter. 



Lucretius could not credit eentaurs; 

Such bicycle he deemed asynchronous. 

“Man superannuates the horse; 

Horse pulses will not gear with ours.” 

Johnson could see no bicycle would go; 

“You bear yourself, and the machine as well.” 
Gennets for germans sprang not from Othello, 
And Ixion rides upon a single wheel. 

Courage. Weren’t strips of heart culture seen 
Of late mating two periodicities? 

Did not at one time even Darwin 
Graft annual upon perennial trees? 


THE world’s end 

“Fly with me then to all's and the world's end 
And plumb for safety down the gaps of stars; 

Let the last gulf or topless cliff befriend, 

What tyrant there our variance debars?" 

Alas, how hope for freedom, no bars bind; 

Space is like earth, rounded, a padded cell; 

Plumb the stars depth, your lead bumps you behind; 
Blind Satan's voice rattled the whole of Hell 

On cushioned air what is such metal worth 
To pierce to the gulf that lies so snugly curled? 

Each tangent plain touches one top of earth, 

Each point in one direction ends the world. 

Apple of knowledge and forgetful mere 
From Tantalus too differential bend.‘ 

The shadow clings. The world's end is here. 

This place's curvature precludes its end. 



Delicate goose-step of penned scorpions 
Patrols its weal under glass-cautered bubble; 

Postpones, fire-cinct, their suicide defiance, 

Pierced carapace stung in mid vault of bell. 

From infant screams the eyes' blood-gorged veins 
Called ringed orbiculars to guard their balls; 

These stays squeeze yet eyes no relief ensanguines. 

These frowns, sphincter, void-centred, burst wrinkled hold- 

Matter includes what must matter enclose, 

Its consequent space, the glass firmament's air-holes. 
Heaven's but an attribute of her seven rainbows. 

It is Styx coerces and not Hell controls. 



You can't beat English lawns. Our final hope 
Is flat despair. Each morning therefore ere 
I greet the office, through the weekday air, 
Holding the Holy Roller at the slope 
(The English fetish, not the Texas Pope) 
Hither and thither on my toes with care 
I roll ours flatter and flatter. Long, in prayer, 

I grub for daisies at whose roots I grope. 

Roll not the abdominal wall; the walls of Troy 
Lead, since a plumb-line ordered, could destroy. 
Roll rather, where no mole dare sap, the lawn. 
And ne'er his tumuli shall tomb your brawn. 
World, roll yourself; and bear your roller, soul. 
As martyrs gridirons, when God calls the roll. 



High over Mecca Allah^s prophet's corpse 
(The empty focus opposite the sun) 

Receives homage, centre of the universe. 

How smooth his epicycles round him run, 

Whose hearth is cold, and all his wives undone. 

Two mirrors with Infinity to dine 

Drink him below the table when they please. 

Adam and Eve breed still their dotted line. 

Repeated incest, a plain series. 

Their trick is all philosophers' disease. 

New safe straight lines are finite though unbounded, 
Old epicycles numberless in vain. 

Then deeper than e'er plummet, plummet sounded. 
Then corpses flew, when God flooded the plain. 

He promised Noah not to flood again. 



Feather, feather, if it was a feather, feathers for fair, or to 
be fair, aroused. Round to be airy, feather, if it was airy, 
very, aviary, fairy, peacock, and to be well surrounded. Well- 
aired, amoving, to peacock, cared-for, share dancing inner to 
be among aware. Peacock around, peacock to care for danc- 
ing, an air, fairing, will he become, to stare. Peacock around, 
rounded, to turn the wearer, turning in air, peacock and I 
declare, to wear for dancing, to be among, to have become 
preferred. Peacock, a feather, there, found together, grounded, 
to bearer share turned for dancing, among them peacock a 
feather feather, dancing and to declare for turning, turning 
a feather as it were for dancing, turning for dancing, dancing 
being begun turning together, together to become, barely a 
feather being, beware, being a peacock only on the stair, 
staring at, only a peacock to be coming, fairly becoming for 
a peacock, be fair together being arounS in air, peacock to 
be becoming lastly, peacock around to be become together, 
peacock a very peacock to be there. 

Moving and to make one the pair, to wear for asking of all 
there, wearing and to be one for wearing, to one by moving 
of all there. 

Reproof, recovered, solitaire. 

Grounded and being well surrounded, so feathered that 


if a peacock sounded, rounded and with an air for wearing, 
aloof and grounded to beware. 

Aloof, overt, to stare. 

Will he be there, can he be there, be there? 

Being a feathered peacock. 

Only a feathered peacock on the stair. 



Re-plyed, extorted, oft transposed, and fleeting. 

Tune from plucked cotton, the cat’s-cradle pattern 
Dances round fingers that would scratch in meeting 
And dures and fosters their abandoned kitten. 

Drawn taut, this flickering of wit would freeze. 

And grave, knot-diamond, its filigrees. 

Pillowed on gulfs between exiguous bobbins 
The Son of Spiders, crucified to lace, 

Suspends a red rag to a thousand dobbins 
And sails so powered to a better place. 

All his gained ports, thought’s inter-reached trapeze. 
Map-sail, transport him towards Hercules, 

Earth-bound. Blue-sea-bound, the crisp silver foam. 
Forbad be crystal, a lace eringo, 

Flaps from the haunch seven petticCats at home. 
Wards, silk, in ocean overskirt, her rainbow. 
Sand-rope, the sodden goblet of the seas 
Holds, concentrate, her liquid pedigrees. 

We sum in port her banquet of degrees. 



A cry, a greenish hollow undulation 
Echoes slapping across the enclosed bathing-pool. 
It is irrotational; one potential function 
(Hollow, the cry of hounds) will give the rule. 

Holding it then, I Sanctus brood thereover. 
Inform in posse the tank’s triple infinite 
(So handy for co-ordinates), chauffeur 
The girdered sky, and need not dive in it; 

Stand, wolf-chased Phoebus, <l> infinite-reined, 

Aton of maggots of reflected girder 

(Steeds that on Jonah a grim start have gained) 

And need not keep the moment, nor yet murder. 

Crashing and g^, musical and shocking, 

They (green for hares) however, tear me down. 
Rut or retract, by gulf or rocks. Menacing, 
Assuring, their tin reverberant town. 

“Thicker than water” (cleaned out before solid) 
Agglutinate, whose wounds raw air composes. 
Shall clot (already has forewarned with olive 
These doves undriven that coo. Ark neuroses) 


Unless, in act, to turbulence, discerning 
His shade, not image, on smashed glass disbanded, 
One, curve and pause, conscious of strain of turning 
Only (muscle on bone, the rein cone now handed) 

Unchart the second, the obstetric, chooses, 

Leaves isle equation by not frozen ford. 

And, to break scent, under foamed new phusis 
Dives to receive in memory reward. 

Fall to them, Lucifer, Sun's Son. Splash high 
Jezebel. Throw her down. They feast, I flee 
Her poised tired head and eye 
Whose skull pike-high mirrors and waits for me. 

Leave outer concrete for the termite city 
Where scab to bullet and strong brick has grown; 
Plunge, and in vortex that destroys it, puppy. 

Drink deep the imaged solid of the bone. 


Ripeness is all; her in her cooling planet 
Revere; do not presume to think her wasted. 
Project her no projectile, plan nor man it; 

Gods cool in turn, by the sun long outlasted. 

Our earth alone given no name of god 
Gives, too, no hold for such a leap to aid her; 
Landing, you break some palace and seem odd; 
Bees sting their need, the keeper's queen invader. 

No, to your telescope; spy out the land; 

Watch while her ritual is still to see. 

Still stand her temples emptying in the sand 
Whose waves overthrew their crumbled tracery; 

Still stand u^called-on her soul's appanage; 
Much social detail whose successor fades, 

Wit used to run a house and to play Bridge, 
And tragic fervour, to dismiss her maids. 

Years her precession do not throw from gear. 
She reads a compass certain of her pole; 
Confident, finds no confines on her sphere, 
Whose failing crops are in her sole control. 


StaB how much further from me fill my night, 
Strange that she too should be inaccessible, 

Who shares my sun. He curtains her from sight. 
And but in darkness is she visible. 



CHAPTER 87: the hith and beliefe of Prester John, 

but he hath not all the full beliefe as we have.*' 


'T feel half an Englishman already'' 

KING AMANULLAH after firing off a torpedo 

Mandevil's river of dry jewels grows 
Day-cycled, deathly, and iron-fruited trees; 

From Paradise it runs to Pantarose 
And with great waves into the gravely seas. 

(Olympe, and Paradise Terrestre the same 
Whence, bent to improve, King Alleluiah came 
High (Higher, in fact, as Milton boasted) hurled 
Clings to the cold slates of the Roof of the World.) 

Spears pierce its desert basin, the long dawn: 

Tower, noon, all cliquant, dock-side cranes, sag-fruited: 
And, sand-born weight, brief by waste sand upborne. 
Leave, gulfed, ere night, the bare plain, deeper rooted. 

(Herr Trinckler, there of late, reports of these, 

A million acres of dead poplar trees. 

Well may new pit-heads to wise A appeal; 

Our desolation is of harsher steel.) 


Antred, of malachite, its boulders thunder: 

Involve their cataracts, one known week-end: 

Then, deep, a labyrinth of landslides, under 
The gravely sea, and seen no more, descend. 

(It is cracked mud the motor service dints; 

Five clays, diluvian, covered some chipped flints. 
Tour well the slag-heaps, royalty, we own 
The arid sowing, the tumultuous stone) 

Fish of another fashion the dry sea 
Ride: can blast through eddies, and sail on: 

Can rend the hunters whose nets drag the scree: 
Are full good savour: are for Prester John. 

(Paradise, like Bohemia, has no coast; 

Of bombs and bowlers it has power to boast, 
But mail-dark fish, spawned in grit-silted grotto, 
Adam comes here for; and recites my motto.) 


And now she deans her teeth into the lake: 

Gives it (God’s grace) for her own bounty’s sake 
What morning’s pale and the crisp mist debars: 
Its glass of the divine (that Will could break) 
Restores, beyond Nature: or lets Heaven take 
(Itself being dimmed) her pattern, who half awake 
Milks between rocks a straddled sky of stars. 

Soap tension the star pattern magnifies. 

Smoothly Madonna through-assumes the skies 
Whose vaults are opened to achieve the Lord. 
No, it is we soaring explore galaxies. 

Our bullet boat light’s speed by thousands flies. 
Who moves so among stars their frame unties; 
See where they blur, and die, and are outsoared. 



You were amused to find you too could fear 
'The eternal silence of the infinite spaces/* 

That net-work without fish, that mere 
Extended idleness, those pointless places 
Who, being possiblized to bear faces, 

Yours and the light from it, up-buoyed. 

Even of the galaxies are void. 

I approve, myself, dark spaces between stars; 

All privacy's their gift; they carry glances 
Through gulfs; and as for messages (thus Mars* 
Reknown for wisdom their wise tact enhances. 
Hanged on the thread of radio advances) 

For messages, they are a wise go-between. 

And say what they think common-sense has seen. 

Only, have we space, common-sense* in common, 

A tribe whose life-blood is our sacrament. 

Physics or metaphysics for your showman, 

For my physician in this banishment? 

Too non-Euclidean predicament. 

Where is that darkness that gives light its place? 
Or where such darkness as would hide your face? 

Our jovial sun, if he avoids exploding 
(These times are critical), will cease to grin, 


Will lose your circumambient foreboding; 

Loose the full radiance his mass can win 
While packed with mass holds all that radiance in; 
Flame far too hot not to seem utter cold 
And hide a tumult never to be told. 



Searching the cave gallery of your face 
My torch meets fresco after fresco ravishes 
Rebegets me; it crumbles each; no trace 
Stays to remind me what each heaven lavishes. 

How judge their triumph, these primeval stocks. 
When to the sketchbook nought but this remains 
A gleam where jellyfish have died on rocks. 

Bare canvas the gold frame disdains? 

Glancing, walk on; there are portraits yet, untried. 
Unbleached; the process, do not hope to change. 

Let us mark in general terms, their wealth, how wide 
Their sense of character, their styles, their range. 

Only walk on; the greater part have gone; 

Whom lust, nor cash, nor habit join; arfe cold; 

The sands are shifting as you walk; walk on. 

The new is an emptier darkness than the old. 

Crossing and doubling, many-fingered, hounded. 

Those desperate stars, those worms dying in flower 
Ashed paper holds, nose-sailing, search their bounded 
Darkness for a last acre to devour. 



It is the pain, it is the pain, endures. 

Your chemic beauty burned my muscles through. 
Poise of my hands reminded me of yours. 

What later purge from this deep toxin cures? 
What kindness now could the old salve renew? 

It is the pain, it is the pain, endures. 

The infection slept (custom or change inures) 
And when pain’s secondary phase was due 
Poise of my hands reminded me of yours. 

How safe I felt, whom memory assures. 

Rich that your grace safely by heart I knew. 

It is the pain, it is the pain, endures. 

My stare drank deep beauty that still allures. 

My heart pumps yet the poison draught of you. 
Poise of my hands reminded me of yours. 

You are still kind whom the same shape immures. 
Kind and beyond adieu. We miss our cue. 

It is the pain, it is the pain, endures. 

Poise of my hands reminded me of yours. 


A R A C H N E 

Twixt devil and deep sea, man hacks his caves; 
Birth, death; one, many; what is true, and seems; 
Earth's vast hot iron, cold space's empty waves: 

King spider, walks the velvet roof of streams: 
Must bird and fish, must god and beast avoid: 
Dance, like nine angels, on pin-point extremes. 

His gleaming bubble between void and void. 
Tribe-membrane, that by mutual tension stands, 
Earth's surface film, is at a breath destroyed. 

Bubbles gleam brightest with least depth of lands 
But two is least can with full tension strain. 

Two molecules; one, and the film disbands. 

We two suffice. But oh beware, whose vain 
Hydroptic soap my meagre water saves. 

Male spiders must not be too early slain. 



The proper scale would pat you on the head 
But Alice showed her pup Ulysses' bough 
Well from behind a thistle, wise with dread; 

And though your gulf-sprung mountains I allow 
(Snow-puppy curves, rose-solemn dado band) 
Charming for nurse, I am not nurse just now. 

Why pat or stride them, when the train will land 
Me high, through climbing tunnels, at your side. 
And careful fingers meet through castle sand. 

Claim slyly rather that the tunnels hide 
Solomon's gems, white vistas, preserved kings. 

By jackal sandhole to your air flung wide. 

Say (she susp'^cts) to sea Nile only brings 

Delta and indecision, who instead 

Far back up country does enormous things. 



Law makes long spokes of the short stakes of men. 

Your well fenced out real estate of mind 
No high flat of the nomad citizen 
Looks over, or train leaves behind. 

Your rights extend under and above your claim 
Without bound; you own land in Heaven and Hell; 
Your part of earth's surface and mass the same, 

Of all cosmos' volume, and all stars as well. 

Your rights reach down where all owners meet, in Hell's 
Pointed exclusive conclave, at earth's centre 
(Your spun farm's root still on that axis dwells); 

And up, through galaxies, a growing sector. 

You are nomad yet; the lighthouse beam you own 
Flashes, like Lucifer, through the firmament. 

Earth's axis varies; your dark central cone 
Wavers a candle's shadow, at the end. 



Stevenson says they wake at two o’clock 

Who lie with Earth, when the birds wake, and sigh; 

Turn over, as does she, once in the night; 

Breathe and consider what this quiet is. 

Conscious of sleep a moment, and the stars. 

But it’s about then one stamped on someone 
And chose an animate basis for one’s mattress. 

It must be later you look round and notice 

The ground plan has been narrowed and moved up; 

How much more foliage appears by star-light; 

That Hall shelters at night under the trees. 

Earth at a decent distance is the Globe 
(One has seen them smaller); within a hundred miles 
She’s terra firtna, you look down to her. 

There is a nightmare period between 
(As if it were a thing you had to swallow) 

When it engulfs the sky, and remains alien. 

When the full size of the thing coming upon you 
Rapes the mind, and will not be unimagined. 

The creepiness of Cambridge scenery. 

In the same way, consists in having trees. 

And never, from any view-point, looking “wooded”— 
What was once a virgin forest, in safe hands. 

But here the opposite disorder charms; 

What was planned as airy and wide open space 


Grown cramped, seems stifled here under traditions, 
(Traditor), their chosen proportions lost; 

Here jungle re-engulfs palace and campus; 

The “high hall garden” of Lawn-Tennyson 
(This is the uncomfortable view of night) 

Drowned under flounces and bell-calm of trees. 



They pass too fast. Ships, and there’s time for sighing; 
Express and motor, Doug can jump between. 

Only dry earth now asteroid her flying 
Mates, if they miss her, must flick past unseen; 

Or striking breasts that once the air defended 
(Bubble of rainbow straddling between twilights. 
Mother-of-pearl that with earth’s oyster ended) 

They crash and burrow and spill all through skylights. 

There, airless now, from the bare sun take cancer. 
Curve spines as earth and gravitation wane. 

Starve on the mirror images of plants, or 
Miss diabeatic down odd carbon chain. 

One daily tortures the poor Christ anew 
(On every planet moderately true) 

But has much more to do. 

And can so much entail here. 

Daily brings rabbits to a new Australia, 

New unforeseen, new cataclysmic failure. 

And cannot tell. He who all answers brings 
May (ever in the great taskmaster’s eye) 

Dowser be of his candle as of springs. 

And pump the valley with the tunnel dry. 



Egyptian banks, an avenue of clay, 

Define the drain between constructed marshes 
(Two silted lakes, silver and brown, with grass. 
Without background, far from hills, at evening). 

Its pomp makes a high road between their sheets 
(Mud shoals, a new alluvium, dabbled water. 

Shallow, and specked with thistles, not yet mastered) 
At the subdued triumph of whose end 
Two transept banks, the castle guard, meet it. 
Screening the deeper water they surround 
With even line of low but commanding pinetrees 
Dark but distinguished as a row of peacocks. 

The darker silhouette is where a bam 
Straddling two banks over a lesser channel 
Stands pillared upon treetrunks like a guildhall 
Empty, mudheaped, through which the alluvial scheme 
Flows temporary as the modern world. 

The mud’s tough glue is drying our still feet. 

A mild but powerful flow moves through the flats 
Laden with soil to feed the further warping. 

“What was that drumming in the sky? What cry 
Squawked from the rustled rashes a reply? 

Was it near? Are they coming? 

Could you hear?” Sound travels a good way by night. 
That farm dog barking’s half a mile away. 


But when the swarms gathering for food repay us 

This hint of anti-aircraft is disarmed 

And as the fleets at a shot reascend 

The eye orders their unreachable chaos 

(The stars are moving like these duck, but slower, 

Sublime, their tails absurd, their voices harsh) 

And analyses into groups the crowds. 

Two surfaces of birds, higher and lower. 

Rise up and cross each other and distend 
As one flight to the river turns, alarmed. 

They are out of shot, and like the turning clouds 
From meditative cigarettes amuse. 

Manure in smoke over the fructuant marsh. 
Curled vapour, incense from the cult of Ouse. 

Bang. Bang. Two duck blur "mid the social crew; 
For man created, to man"s larder due. 

With plump or splash on the new-nurtured field 
To Reason"s arm they proper homage yield. 

'The well-taught dogs wait but the voice to run. 
Eager, and conscious of the murdering gun."" 

Starlit, mistcircled, one whole pearl embrowned, 
An even dusked silver of earth and sky 
Held me, dazzled with cobwebs, staring round. 
The black band of my hat lept to my eye. 

Alone in sight not coloured like the ground 
It lit, like a struck match, everything by. 



Re-edify me, moon, give me again 
My undetailed order, the designer's sketches. 

Strong from your beams I can sustain the sun’s 
That discompose me to disparate pain. 

Your vast reflection from that altar runs 
But ''o’er the dark her silver mantle” stretches; 

Boxed, therefore, in your cedar, my cigarette 

Kept moist, and with borrowed fragrance, may do yet. 

My pleasure in the simile thins. 

The moon’s softness makes deep velvet of shadows; 
Only lightning beats it for the lace of Gothic 
On parties waiting for romance of ruins. 

No lunacy, no re-imagined flick 
The full relief your restoration glows. 

Of my each face you a full sky unfurl; 

You heal the blind into a round of pearl. 

"When sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake” 

(God made such light, before sun or focus, shine) 

I, nightmare past, in sane day take no harm, 

(Passed too the cold bitter pallor of day-break), 

And diffused shadowless daylight of your calm 
Empties its heaven into my square garish sky-sign. 
These then your crowns; oflfspring of Heaven first-born, 
Earth’s terra firma, the Hell-Gate of Horn. 

3 ^ 


This last pain for the damned the Fathers found: 

''They knew the bliss with which they were not crowned/' 
Such, but on earth, let me foretell, 

Is all, of heaven or of helL 

Man, as the prying housemaid of the soul, 

May know her happiness by eye to hole: 

He's safe; the key is lost; he knows 
Door will not open, nor hole close. 

"What is conceivable can happen too," 

Said Wittgenstein, who had not dreamt of you; 

But wisely; if we worked it long 
We should forget where it was wrong. 

Those thorns are qowns which, woven into knots, 

Crackle under and soon boil fool's pots; 

And no man's watching, wise and long. 

Would ever stare them into song. 

Thorns burn to a consistent ash, like man; 

A splendid cleanser for the frying-pan: 

And those who leap from pan to fire 
Should this brave opposite admire. 


All those large dreams by which men long live well 
Are magic-lanterned on the smoke of hell; 

This then is real, I have implied, 

A painted, small, transparent slide. 

These the inventive can hand-paint at leisure. 

Or most emporia would stock or measure; 

And feasting in their dappled shade 
We should forget how they were made. 

Feign then what's by a decent tact believed 
And act that state is only so conceived, 

And build an edifice of form 

For house where phantoms may keep warm. 

Imagine, then, by miracle, with me, 

(Ambiguous gifts, as what gods give must be) 

What could not possibly be there. 

And learn a style from a despair. 



Well boiled in acid and then laid on glass 
(A labelled strip) the specimen of building, 

Though concrete, was not sure what size it was. 

And was so large as to compare with nothing. 

High to a low and vulnerable sky 

It rose, and could have scraped it if it chose; 

But, plain and firm, and cleanly, like stretched string. 
It would not think of doing such a thing; 

On trust, it did not try. 

My eye walked up the ladder of its windows. 

Stretched in the crane's long pencil of a stalk 
(Whose dry but tough metal brown of grass 
Flowered its salted down on this tall chalk) 

Sole as the bridge Milton gave death to pass 
The beam of Justice as in doubt for ever 
Hung like a Zeppelin over London river; 

Its lifted sealine impiously threatened deluge, 

Fixed, like a level rainbow, to the sky; 

Whose blue glittered with a frosted silver 
Like palace walls in Grimm papered with needles 
The sands all shining in its larger concrete 
A dome compact of all but visible stars. 



There is a Supreme God in the ethnological section; 

A hollow toad shape, faced with a blank shield. 

He needs his belly to include the Pantheon, 

Which is inserted through a hole behind. 

At the navel, at the points formally stressed, at the organs 
of sense. 

Lice glue themselves, dolls, local deities, 

His smooth wood creeps with all the creeds of the world. 

Attending there let us absorb the cultures of nations 
And dissolve into our judgement all their codes. 

Then, being clogged with a natural hesitation 
(People are continually asking one the way out), 

Let us stand here and admit that we have no road. 

Being everything, let us admit that is to be something. 

Or give ourselves the benefit of the doubt; 

Let us offer our pinch of dust all to this God, 

And grant his reign over the entire building. 



There is a tree native in Turkestan, 

Or further east towards the Tree of Heaven, 

Whose hard cold cones, not being wards to time. 

Will leave their mother only for good cause; 

Will ripen only in a forest fire; 

Wait, to be fathered as was Bacchus once. 

Through men’s long lives, that image of time’s end. 
I knew the Phoenix was a vegetable. 

So Semele desired her deity 

As this in Kew thirsts for the Red Dawn. 



Hatched in a rasping darkness of dry sand 
The child cicada some brave root discovers: 

Sucks with dumb mouth while his long climb is planned 
That high must tunnel through the silt that smothers: 
Parturient with urine from this lover 
Coheres from chaos, only to evade, 

An ordered Nature his own waste has made. 

And builds his mortared Babel from the incumbent shade. 

On my unpointed Atlantic where bergs float 
In endless cold: its scream of gulls: the claw, 

A Roman feather at the back of the throat. 
Wave-shutter, hanging, flapping, nape and jaw; 

You lay your sunbeam and a part can soar 
As tear-clouds, safe beneath their maker, move 
In air-ships’ gross security, rove and prove 
The virgin’s fertile lands, Spain-stolen, Ireasure-trove, 

The highest in his bowels (God had come) 

Israel, determined to digest^ had striven; 

“I will not let thee go,” told Helium, 

The unvalenced self<losing air of Heaven. 

These risings have more earth-born gas as leaven. 
Cheaper, less “bitter in the belly,” free 
If rain to make but little in the sea 
Or if on fire to make too fierce an empyry. 


Therefore, my dear, though you can have it all 
As giving goes, the car more safe would ride 
Slung on star-netting of a larger ball 
Putting its eggs in wicker-work skywide: 

Stars less monogamously deified: 

Who not by light, merely by being far. 

Make real Rotational Phenomena, 

Prove that I satellite and you true centre are. 

Who, being fixed and far, calm and surprise: 

Being no farther, shutter and enclose 
A rounded universe: who name the size. 

Imply the creature that can count their rows. 
Your sun alone yielding its beauty glows 
In growth upon the planet. They are song 
Or call the tune to make the dancing throng 
Free only as they aloof compose it and are strong. 



The god approached dissolves into the air. 

Magnolias, for instance, when in bud. 

Are right in doing anything they can think of; 

Free by predestination in the blood. 

Saved by their own sap, shed for themselves. 

Their texture can impose their architecture; 

Their sapient matter is always already informed. 

Whether they burgeon, massed wax flames, or flare 
Plump spaced-out saints, in their gross prime, at prayer. 

Or leave the sooted branches bare 

To sag at tip from a sole blossom there 

They know no act that will not make them fair. 

Professor Eddington with the same insolence 
Called all physics one tautology; 

If you describe things with the right tensors 
All law becomes the fact that they can be described with 

This is the Assumption of the description. 

The duality of choice becomes the singularity of existence; 
The effort of virtue the unconsciousness of foreknowledge. 

That over-all that Solomon should wear 
Gives these no cope who cannot know of care. 


They have no gap to spare that they should share 
The rare calyx we stare at in despair. 

They have no other that they should compare. 
Their arch of promise the wide Heaviside layer 
They rise above a vault into the air. 


Not locus if you will but envelope, 

Paths of light not atoms of good form; 

Such tangent praise, less crashing, not less warm. 
May gain more intimacy for less hope. 

Not the enclosed letter, then, the spirited air. 

The detached marble, not the discovered face; 

I can love so for truth, as still for grace. 

Your humility that will not hear or care. 

You are a metaphor and they are lies 
Or there true least where their knot chance unfurls; 
You are the grit only of those glanced pearls 
That not for me shall melt back to small eyes. 

Wide-grasping glass in which to gazp alone 
Your curve bars even fancy at its gates; 

You are the map only of the divine states 

You, made, nor known, nor knowing in, make known. 

Yet if I love you but as Cause unknown 
Cause has at least the Form that has been shown. 

Or love what you imply but to exclude 
That vacuum has your edge, your attitude. 

4 ^ 

Duality too has its Principal. 

These lines you grant me may invert to points; 
Or paired, poor grazing misses, at your joints. 
Cross you on painless arrows to the wall. 



The laughing god born of a startling answer 
(Cymbal of clash in the divided glancer 
Forcing from heaven’s the force of earth’s desire) 

Capped a retort to sublime earth by fire 
And staned round within man its salt and glitter 
(Round goblet, but for star- or whirled- map fitter? 

Earth lost in him is still but earth fulfilled), 

Troubled the water till the spirit ’stilled 
And flowered round tears-of-wine round the dimmed flask 
(The roundest ones crack least under this task; 

It is the delicate glass stands heat, better than stone. 
This is the vessel could have stood alone 
Were it not fitted both to earth and sky). 

Which trickled to a sea, though wit was dry, 

Making a brew thicker than blood, being brine. 

Being the mother water which was first, made blood, 

All living blood, and whatever blood makes wine. 

The god arkitect whose coping with the Flood 
Groyned the white stallion arches of the main 
(And miner deeps that in the dome of the brain 
Take Iris’ arches’ pupillage and Word) 

Walked on the bucking water like a bird 
And, guard, went round its rampart and its ball 
(Columbus’ egg sat on earth’s garden wall 


And held the equitation of his bar; 

Waves beat his bounds until he foamed a star 
And mapped with fire the skyline that he ploughed), 
Trod and divined the inwheeling serene cloud, 

(And who knows if Narcissus dumb and bent—) 

Shed and fermented to a firmament 

(—May use his pool as mirror for the skies?) 

Blind Hera's revelation peacock eyes 
Trophies the golden throne 
May still be planted on; 

Incestuous Chaos will breed permanent). 

Helled to earth's centre Ixion at the wheel 
(He boxed the compassing of his appeal. 

Her centaur, born thence, schooled 

This hero, the paunched beaker, ether-cooled) 

Still makes go round the whirled fooled clouded wheal. 

The god who fled down with a standard yard 
(Surveying with that reed which was his guard 
He showed to John the new Jerusalem. 

It was a sugar-cane containing rum. 

And hence the fire on which these works depend) 
Taught and quivered strung upon the bend 
An outmost crystal a recumbent flame 

(He drinks all cups the tyrant could acclaim; 

He still is dumb, inimitably wined; 

Burns still his nose and liver for mankind . . .) 

It is an ether, such an agony. 

In the thin choking air of Caucasus 
He under operation lies for ever 


Smelling the chlorine in the chloroform. 

The plains around him flood with the destroyers 
Pasturing the stallions in the standing corn. 

The herm whose length measured degrees of heat 
(Small lar that sunned itself in Mercury 
And perked one word there that made space ends meet) 
Fluttered his snake too lightly in to see 
(Most fertile thief, and journal to inquire) 

The mortal Eden forming, and the fire. 

A smash resounding in its constancy. 

This burst the planet Bacchus in the sky. 

Thence dry lone asteroids took heart to be. 

So soon the amalgam with mercury 

This plumbing: given with it free, the house 

Not built with hands: the silver crucible, 

Butt-armed: the sovereigns: eats into flaked sloughs. 

Paste for the backs of mirrors, there he lies; 

Leper scales fall always from his eyes. 

She whom the god had snatched into a cloud 
Came up my stair and called to me acrbss 
The gulf she floated over of despair. 

Came roaring up as through triumphal arches 
Called I should warm my hands on her gold cope 
Called her despair the coping of her fire. 

The god in making fire from her despair 
Cast from the parabola of falling arches 
An arch that cast his focus to the skyline 
Cold focus burning from the other's fire 

Arachne sailing her own rope of cloud 
A Tracer photon with a rocket's life-line 
And purged his path with a thin fan of fire 

Round steel behind the lights of the god's car 

A wheel of fire that span her head across 
Borne soaring forward through a crowd of cloud 
Robed in fire round as heaven's cope 
The god had lit up her despair to fire 
Fire behind grates of a part of her despair 
And rang like bells the vaults and the dark arches. 



There are some critics say our verse is bad 
Because Piaget's babies had the same affection. 

Proved by interview. These young were mad. 

They spoke not to Piaget but to themselves. Protection 
Indeed may safely grow less frank; a Ba 
Cordial in more than one direction 

Can speak well to itself and yet please Pa. 

So too Escape Verse has grown mortal sin. 

This gives just one advantage; a moral Ha 

Can now be retorted in kind. Panoplied in 
Virtuous indignation, gnawing his bone, 

A man like Lea vis plans an Escape. To begin 

With brickbats as your basis of the known 
Is to lose ground, and these ones were compiled 
From a larger building: The safety valve alone 

Knows the worst truth about the engine; only the child 
Has not yet been misled. You say you hate 
Your valve or child? You may be wise or mild. 


The claim is that no final judge can state 
The truth between you; there is no such man. 
This leads to anarchy; we must deliberate. 

We could once carry anarchy, when we ran 
Christ and the magnificent milord 
As rival pets; the thing is, if we still can 

Lacking either. Or take Faust, who could afford 
“All things that move between the quiet poles” 
To be made his own. He had them all on board. 

The poles define the surface and it rolls 
Between their warring virtues; the spry arts 
Can keep a steady hold on the controls 

By seeming to evade. But if it parts 
Into uncommunicable spacetimes, few 
Will hint or ogle, when the stoutest heart’s 

Best direct yell will never reach, though you 

Look through the very corners of your eyes 

Still you will find no star behind the blue. 

This gives no scope for trickwork. He who tries 
Talk must always plot and then sustain. 

Talk to himself until the star replies. 

But in despair that it could speak again 
Assume what answers any wits have found 
In evening dress on rafts upon the main. 

Not therefore uneventful or soon drowned. 


A U B A D E 

Hours before dawn we were woken by the quake. 
My house was on a cliff. The thing could take 
Bookloads off shelves, break bottles in a row. 

Then the long pause and then the bigger shake. 

It seemed the best thing to be up and go. 

And far too large for my feet to step by. 

I hoped that various buildings were brought low. 
The heart of standing is you cannot fly. 

It seemed quite safe till she got up and dressed. 
The guarded tourist makes the guide the test. 
Then I said The Garden? Laughing she said No. 
Taxi for her and for me healthy rest. 

It seemed the best thing to be up and go. 

The language problem but you have to try. 

Some solid ground for lying could she show? 

The heart of standing is you cannot fly. 

None of these deaths were her point at all. 

The thing was that being woken he would bawl 
And finding her not in earshot he would know. 

I tried saying Half an Hour to pay this call. 

It seemed the best thing to be up and go. 


I slept, and blank as that I would yet lie. 

Till you have seen what a threat holds below, 

The heart of standing is you cannot fly. 

Tell me again about Europe and her pains. 

Who's tortured by the drought, who by the rains. 
Glut me with floods where only the swine can row 
Who cuts his throat and let him count his gains. 

It seemed the best thing to be up and go. 

A bedshift flight to a Far Eastern sky. 

Only the same war on a stronger toe. 

The heart of standing is you cannot fly. 

Tell me more quickly what I lost by this, 

Or tell me with less drama what they miss 
Who call no die a god for a good throw, 

Who say after two aliens had one kiss 
It seemed the best thing to be up and go. 

But as to risings, I can tell you why. 

It is on contradiction that they grow. 

It seemed the best thing to be up and go. 

Up was the heartening and the strong reply. 

The heart of standing is we cannot fly. 

5 ^ 


Describe the Fool who knows 
All but his foes. 

Wading through tears striding the covered sneers 
And against tide, he goes. 

Delighting in the freedom of those bounds 
Your scorn and even your reason are his aid. 

It is an absolute health that will not heal his wounds. 
Wisdom’s the charger mounts him above shade. 

Hanged by suspense and eternally delayed. 

“Your eyes are corpse-worms; 

Your lips poison-flowers.” 

They become stars, the eyes he thus transforms. 

All the lips’ whispers are cool summer showers. 

C. Hatakeyama [Trans. W.E.] 



It caught my eye, my shadow, as it ran. 

My bad luck, and it had a plan. 

Clearly new friends for play 

Were what it wanted, since it went away. 

I had often giggled when 
It dug lines in my forehead. 

Or stole oil from my hair to dye its gown. 

Feeling it drive its needle through my heart 
I had often laughed and enjoyed licking the blood. 
You want to please your pets. I began 
To fear it was disgusted, since it ran; 

Unprepared on laughing to hear rise 
Tenfolded echoes, scattering mimicries. 

Come from the hills and fields and the far skies. 

C. Hatakeyama [Trans. W.E.] 



Fly up and away, large hawk, 

To the eternal day of the abyss, 

Belittling the night about the mountains. 

Your eyes that are our terror 

Are well employed about the secrets of the moon 

Or the larger betrayals of the noon day. 

Do not stay just above 

So that I must hide shuddering under inadequate twigs. 
Sail through the dry smoke of volcanoes 
Or the damp clouds if they will better encourage your 

Then shall I weep with joy seeing your splendour, 

Forget my cowardice, forget my weakness. 

Feel the whole sunlight fall upon my tears. 

I shall believe you a key to Paradise. 

I shall believe you the chief light upon this dark grey world. 

C. Hatakeyama [Trans. W.E.] 



Delphic and Theban and Corinthian, 

Three lines, by the odd chance, met at a point. 

The delta zero, the case trivial. 

A young man's cross-road but a shady one. 

Killing a mistaken black cat in the dark 
He had no other metaphysical trait. 

God walks in a mysterious way 
Neither delighteth he in any man's legs. 

The wrecked girl, still raddled with Napoleon's paint. 
Nose eaten by a less clear conqueror. 

Still orientated to the average dawn. 

Behind, Sahara, before, Nile and man 
A toy abandoned, sure, after so many. 

That the next sun will take her for a walk. 

Still lifts a touching dog's face eager for a sign. 

Not one for generalising his solutions 
Oedipus placed the riddle with a name. 

Another triumph for the commonplace. 

While too much to pretend she fell and burst 

It is a comfort that the Sphinx took such an answer. 



“But wretched Man is still in arms for Fear.” 

“From fear to fear, successively betrayed”— 

By making risks to give a cause for fear 
(Feeling safe with causes, and from birth afraid), 

By climbing higher not to look down, by mere 
Destruction of the accustomed because strange 
(Too complex a loved system, or too clear). 

By needing change but not too great a change 
And therefore a new fear— man has achieved 
All the advantage of a wider range, 

Successfully has the first fear deceived. 

Thought the wheels run on sleepers. This is not 
The law of nature it has been believed. 

Increasing power (it has increased a lot) 
Embarrasses “attempted suicides,” 

Nanows their margin. Policies that got 

“Virility from war” get much besides; 

The mind, as well in mining as in gas 
War’s parallel, now less easily decides 


On a good root-confusion to amass 
Much safety from irrelevant despair. 

Mere change in numbers made the process crass. 

We now turn blank eyes for a pattern there 
Where first the race of armament was made; 
Where a less involute compulsion played. 

“For hunger or for love they bite and tear.” 



Fearful '‘had the root of the matter/' bringing 
Him things to fear, and he read well that ran; 
Muchafraid went over the river singing 

Though none knew what she sang. Usual for a man 
Of Bunyan's courage to respect fear. It is the two 
Most exquisite surfaces of knowledge can 

Get clap (the other is the eye). Steadily you 
Should clean your teeth, for your own weapon's near 
Your own throat always. No purpose, view, 

Or song but's weak if without the ballast of fear. 

We fail to hang on those firm times that met 
And knew a fear because when simply here 

It does not suggest its transformation. Yet 
To escape emotion (a common hope) and attain 
Cold truth is essentially to get 

Out by a rival emotion fear. We gain 
Truth, to put it sanely, by gift of pleasure 
And courage, but, since pleasure knits with pain, 

Both presume fear. To take fear as the measure 
May be a measure of self-respect. Indeed 
As the operative clue in seeking treasure 


Is normally trivial and the urgent creed 
To balance enough possibles; as both bard 
And hack must blur or peg lest you misread; 

As to be hurt is petty, and to be hard 
Stupidity; as the economists raise 
Bafflement to a boast we all take as guard; 

As the wise patience of England is a gaze 
Over the drop, and ''high'' policy means clinging; 
There is not much else that we dare to praise. 



Then there is this civilising love of death, by which 
Even music and painting tell you what else to love. 
Buddhists and Christians contrive to agree about death 

Making death their ideal basis for different ideals. 

The communists however disapprove of death 
Except when practical. The people who dig up 

Corpses and rape them are I understand not reported. 

The Freudians regard the death-wish as fundamental, 
Though “the clamour of life'' proceeds from its rival “Eros." 

Whether you are to admire a given case for making less 

Is not their story. Liberal hopefulness 

Regards death as a mere border to an improving picture. 

Because we have neither hereditary nor direct knowledge 
of death 

It is the trigger of the literary man's biggest gun 
And we are happy to equate it to any conceived calm. 

Heaven me, when a man is ready to die about something 
Other than himself, and is in fact ready because of that. 
Not because of himself, that is something clear about him- 


Otherwise I feel very blank upon this topic, 

And think that though important, and proper for anyone 
to bring up, 

It is one that most people should be prepared to be blank 



Slowly the poison the whole blood stream 611s. 
It is not the effort nor the failure tires. 

The waste remains, the waste remains and kills. 

It is not your system or clear sight that mills 
Down small to the consequence a life requires; 
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream 611s. 

They bled an old dog dry yet the exchange rills 
Of young dog blood gave but a month^s desires; 
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills. 

It is the Chinese tombs and the slag hills 
Usurp the soil, and not the soil retires. 

Slowly the poison the whole blood stream 611s. 

Not to have 6re is to be a skin that shrills. 

The complete 6re is death. From partial 6res 
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills. 

It is the poems you have lost, the ills 
From missing dates, at which the heart expires. 
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream 611s. 
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills. 



I have mislaid the torment and the fear. 

You should be praised for taking them away. 

Those that doubt drugs, let them doubt which was here. 

Well are they doubted for they turn out dear. 

I feed on flatness and am last to leave. 

Verse likes despair. Blame it upon the beer 
I have mislaid the torment and the fear. 

All losses haunt us. It was a reprieve 
Made Dostoevsky talk out queer and clear. 

Those stay most haunting that most soon deceive 

And turn out no loss of the various Zoo 
The public spirits or the private play. 

Praised once for having taken these away 
What is it else then such a thing can do? 

Lose is Find with great marsh lights like you. 

Those that doubt drugs, let them doubt which was here 
When this leaves the green afterlight of day. 

Nor they nor I know what we shall believe. 

You should be praised for taking them away. 



Waiting for the end, boys, waiting for the end. 

What is there to be or do? 

What's become of me or you? 

Are we kind or are we true? 

Sitting two and two, boys, waiting for the end. 

Shall I build a tower, boys, knowing it will rend 
Crack upon the hour, boys, waiting for the end? 
Shall I pluck a flower, boys, shall I save or spend? 

All turns sour, boys, waiting for the end. 

Shall I send a wire, boys? Where is there to send? 
All are under fire, boys, waiting for the end. 

Shall I turn a sire, boys? Shall I choose a friend? 

The fat is in the pyre, boys, waiting for the end. 

Shall I make it clear, boys, for all to apprehend. 
Those that will not hear, boys, waiting for the end. 
Knowing it is near, boys, trying to pretend, 

Sitting in cold fear, boys, waiting for the end? 

Shall we send a cable, boys, accurately penned. 
Knowing we are able, boys, waiting for the end. 

Via the Tower of Babel, boys? Christ will not ascend. 
He's hiding in his stable, boys, waiting for the end. 


Shall we blow a bubble, boys, glittering to distend. 
Hiding from our trouble, boys, waiting for the end? 
When you build on rubble, boys. Nature will append 
Double and re-double, boys, waiting for the end. 

Shall we make a tale, boys, that things are sure to mend. 
Playing bluff and hale, boys, waiting for the end? 

It will be born stale, boys, stinking to offend. 

Dying ere it fail, boys, waiting for the end. 

Shall we go all wild, boys, waste and make them lend. 
Playing at the child, boys, waiting for the end? 

It has all been filed, boys, history has a trend. 

Each of us enisled, boys, waiting for the end. 

What was said by Marx, boys, what did he perpend? 
No good being sparks, boys, waiting for the end. 
Treason of the clerks, boys, curtains that descend. 
Lights becoming darks, boys, waiting for the end. 

Waiting for the end, boys, waiting for the end. 

Not a chance of blend, boys, things have got to tend. 
Think of those who vend, boys, think of how we wend, 
Waiting for the end, boys, waiting for the end. 



(A Japanese one, in Manchuria, 
from Siberia southwards, September, 1937.) 

Argentina in one swing of the bell skirt, 
Without visible steps, shivering in her power, 
Could shunt a call passing from wing to wing. 

Laughing the last art to syncopate 
Or counterpoint all dances in their turns, 
Arbours and balconies and room and shade, 

It lopes for home; 

And I a twister love what I abhor, 

So firm, so burdened, on such light gay feet. 



I find it normal, passing these great frontiers, 

That you scan the crowds in rags eagerly each side 
With awe; that the nations seem real; that their ambitions 
Having such achieved variety within one type, seem sane; 
I find it normal; 

So too to extract false comfort from that word. 



No man is sure he does not need to climb. 

It is not human to feel safely placed. 

''A girl can't go on laughing all the time.” 

Wrecked by their games and jeering at their prime 
There are who can, but who can praise their taste? 
No man is sure he does not need to climb. 

Love rules the world but is it rude, or slime? 

All nasty things are sure to be disgraced. 

A girl can't go on laughing all the time. 

Christ stinks of torture who was caught in lime. 
No star he aimed at is entirely waste. 

No man is sure he does not need to climb. 

It is too weak to speak of right and crime. 
Gentlemen prefer bound feet and the wasp waist. 
A girl can’t go on laughing all the time. 

It gives a million gambits for a mime 
On which a social system can be based: 

No man is sure he does not need to climb, 

A girl can't go on laughing all the time. 



Not but they die, the teasers and the dreams, 

Not but they di^ 

and tell the careful flood 
To give them what they clamour for and why. 

You could not fancy where they rip to blood. 

You could not fancy 

nor that mud 

I have heard speak that will not cake or dry. 

Our claims to act appear so small to these, 

Our claims to act 

colder lunacies 

That cheat the love, the moment, the small fact. 

Make no escape because they flash and die. 

Make no escape 

build up your love. 

Leave what you die for and be safe to die. 



Not busting now before the fish away 
I would not make such murders of my teens. 

I made no purpose of the first of May. 

Crash is a cloth but poisons are all greens. 

The lovely grass is brown is dry is grey. 

The useful sheep feed safely on that shade 
Yet rushing on the green one if soon stabbed 
Can then go munching on unburst 

Nor ask a policy to drown a smell. 

The great and good, more murderously scabbed, 

No dug-out on whose lawns could spoil no game, 

Cosy in bath-chairs and not known to shame 
(G.P. came late) looked wiser than we stayed. 

Their long experience who all were first 
Would disadvise you to say Now is Hell 
Knowing worst not known to who can still say Worst. 



John Watson was a tin-mine man 
An expert of his kind. 

He worked up country in Malaya 
On whisky, not resigned, 

On whisky but not blind. 

He told a friend he felt like death. 

And what you say’s repeated. 

The manager says “I just sent for him 
With ‘Here’s ten dollars, beat it 

For Christ’s sake to Singapore. 

I’m glad to pay the fare. 

Just think of the nuisanee, man, for me. 

If you pass out here.’ 

Next day John Watson tapped the door 
With ‘Right, take my gun. 

You’ve changed my mind, I mean to live.' 
‘I’ll keep any gun. 

But I’ll keep no madman.’ 

“This is the funny part,” the manager says, 
“He was shot just the same. 


Of couise I had to pass him to a dickey job. 
Just the natives, no-one to blame. 

But it was quick how it came. 

Three weeks.” 


The dragon hatched a cockatrice 

Cheese crumbles and not many mites repair 
There is a Nature about this 
The spring and rawness tantalise the air 

Most proud of being most at ease 
The sea is the most solid ground 
Where comfort is on hands and knees 
The nations perch about around 

Red hills bleed naked into screes— 

The classics are a single school 
—The few large trees are holy trees 
They teach the nations how to rule 

They will not teach the Japanese— 

They rule by music and by rites 
—They are as like them as two peas 
All nations are untidy sights 

The serious music strains to squeeze— 

The angel coolies sing like us 
—Duties, and literature, and fees 
To lift an under-roaded bus 


The paddy fields are wings of bees 
The Great Wall as a dragon crawls 
To one who flies or one who sees 
The twisted contour of their walls 

A liver fluke of sheep agrees 

Most rightly proud of her complacencies 
With snail so well they make one piece 
Most wreeked and longest of all histories. 


(With the exiled universities of Peking) 

The soul remembering its loneliness 
Shudders in many cradles . . . 

. . . soldier, honest wife by turns, 

Cradle within cradle, and all in Sight, and all 
Deformed because there is no deformity 
But saves us from a dream. 


If flight's as general as this 
And every movement starts a wing 
('Turn but a stone/' the poet found 
Winged angels erawling that could sting), 
Eagles by hypothesis 
And always taking a new fling, 

Scorners eternal of the ground 
And all the rocks where one could cling, 
We obviously give a miss 

To earth and all that kind of thing, 

And cart our Paradise around 

Or all that footless birds can bring. 

I have flown here, part of the way. 

Being air-minded where I must 
(The Victorian train supplies a bed; 
Without it, where I could, I bussed). 


But here for quite a time I stay 
Acquiring moss and so forth— rust, 

And it is true I flew, I fled, 

I ran about on hope, on trust, 

I felt I had escaped from They 
Who sat on pedestals and fussed. 

But is it tme one ought to dread 
This timid flap, that shirk, that lust? 

We do not fly when we are clay. 

We hope to fly when we are dust. 

The holy mountain where I live 
Has got some bearing on the Yeats. 

Sacred to Buddha, and a god 
Itself, it straddles the two fates; 

And has deformities to give 

You dreams by all its paths and gates. 

They may be dreamless. It is odd 
To hear them yell out jokes and hates 

And pass the pilgrims through a sieve. 
Brought there in baskets or in crates. 

The pilgrims fly because they plod. 

The topmost abbot has passed Greats. 

“The soul remembering” is just 
What we professors have to do. 

(The souls aren’t lonely now; this room 
Beds four and as I write holds two. 

They shudder at the winter’s thrust 
In cradles that encourage ’flu.) 


The abandoned libraries entomb 
What all the lectures still go through, 
And men get curiously non-plussed 
Searching the memory for a clue. 

The proper Pegasi to groom 
Are those your mind is willing to. 

Let textual variants be discussed; 

We teach a poem as it grew. 

Remembering prose is quite a trouble 
But of Mrs. Woolf one tatter 
Many years have failed to smother. 

As a piece of classroom patter 
It would not repay me double. 

Empire-builder reads the yatter 
In one monthly, then another: 

“Thank God I left” (this is my smarter) 
“That pernicious hubble-bubble 
If only to hear baboons chatter 
And coolies beat their wives.” A brother 
I feel and it is me I flatter. 

They say the witches thought they flew 
Because some drug made them feel queer. 
There is exorbitance enough 

And a large broomstick in plain beer. 

As for the Tiger Bone, the brew 
With roses we can still get here. 

The village brand is coarse and rough. 

And the hot water far from clear. 


It makes a grog. It is not true 
That only an appalling fear 
Would drive a man to drink the stuff. 

Besides, you do not drink to steer 
Far out away into the blue. 

The chaps use drink for getting near. 

Verse has been lectured to a treat 
Against Escape and being blah. 

It struck me trying not to fly 
Let them escape a bit too far. 

It is an aeronautic feat 

Called soaring, makes you quite a star 
(The Queen and Alice did) to try 
And keep yourself just where you are. 
But who was bold enough to meet 
Exactly who on Phoebus' car 
Slung on a Blimp to be a spy 
I ask before I cry Hurrah? 

I pushed the Yeats up to the top 
Feeling it master of a flow 
Of personal chat that would not end 
Without one root from which to grow. 
That excellent poet's organ stop 
Has very wisely let us go 
Just scolding all. He does not send 
Any advice so far below. 

But yet this Dream, that's such a flop, 

As all the latest people know. 

He makes no leak we ought to mend 
Or gas-escape that should not blow, 

But what they fly from, whence they drop, 
The truth that they forsake for show. 

Besides, I do not really like 
The verses about ''Up the Boys,'’ 

The revolutionary romp, 

The hearty uproar that deploys 
A sit-down literary strike; 

The other curly-headed toy’s 
The superrealistic comp. 

By a good student who enjoys 
A nightmare handy as a bike. 

You find a cluster of them cloys. 

But all conventions have their pomp 
And all styles can come down to noise. 

Indeed I finally agree 

You do in practice have to say 
This crude talk about Escape 
Cannot be theorised away. 

Yeats is adroit enough to see 

His old word Dream must now leave play 
For dreams in quite another shape, 

And Freud, and that his word can stay. 
That force and breadth of mind all we 
Can’t hope for, whether bleak or gay; 
We put his soundings down on tape 
And mark where others went astray. 


So dreams it may be right to flee, 
And as to fleeing, that we may. 

So far I seem to have forgot 
About the men who really soar. 

We think about them quite a bit; 

Elsewhere there’s reason to think more. 
With Ministers upon the spot 
(Driven a long way from the War) 

And training camps, the place is fit 
For bombs. The railway was the chore 
Next town. The thing is, they can not 
Take aim. Two hundred on one floor 
Were wedding guests cleverly hit 
Seven times and none left to deplore. 

Politics are what verse should 
Not fly from, or it goes all wrong. 

I feel the force of that all right, 

And had I speeches they were song. 

But really, does it do much good 
To put in verse however strong 
The welter of a doubt at night 
At home, in which I too belong? 

The heat-mists that my vision hood 
Shudder precisely with the throng. 
England I think an eagle flight 
May come too late, may take too long. 
What would I teach it? Where it could 
The place has answered like a gong. 


What are these things I do not face, 

The reasons for entire despair, 

Trenching the map into the lines 

That prove no building can be square? 
Not nationalism nor yet race 
Poisons the mind, poisons the air. 
Excuses, consequences, signs. 

But not the large thing that is there. 
Real enough to keep a place 

Like this from owning its new heir; 

But economics are divines. 

They have the floor, they have the flair. . . 

Revolt and mercy fired no sparks 
In the Red argument at all; 

Only what all of us desire. 

That the whole system should not stall. 
The real impressiveness of Marx 
Lay in combining a high call 
With what seemed proof that certain fire 
Attended all who joined with Saul. 

Stalin amended his remarks 

By saying that they would not fall 
But must be trod into the mire 
(And till his baby state could crawl 
It must not venture on such larks). 

This let them back against a wall. 

The tedious triumphs of the mind 
Are more required than some suppose 


To make a destiny absurd 
And dung a desert for a rose. 

It seems unpleasantly refined 
To put things off till someone knows. 

Economists have got the bird 
And dignity and high repose. 

One asked me twenty years to find 
The thread to where the monster grows. 

But we wait upon the word 

They may too late or not disclose. 

^This passive style might pass perhaps 
Squatting in England with the beer. 

But if that's all you think of, what 
In God's name are you doing here? 

If economics sent the Japs 
They have the rudder that will steer; 

Pretence of sympathy is not 
So rare it pays you for a tear. 

Hark at these Germans, hopeful chaps, 
Who mean to split the country dear." 

It is more hopeful on the spot. 

The ''News," the conferences that leer. 

The creeping fog, the civil traps. 

These are what force you into fear. 

Besides, you aren't quite good for nowt 
Or clinging wholly as a burr 

Replacing men who must get out, 

Nor is it shameful to aver 

A vague desire to be about 
Where the important things occur . . . 
And no desire at all to tout 
About how blood strokes down my fur— 
We have a Pandarus school of trout 
That hangs round battles just to pun— 
The Golden Bough, you needn’t doubt, 
“Are crucifixions what they were?” . . . 

I said I wouldn’t fly again 
For quite a bit. I did not know. 

Even in breathing tempest-tossed, 
Scattering to winnow and to sow, 
With convolutions for a brain, 

Man moves, and we have got to go. 
Claiming no heavy personal cost 
I feel the poem would be slow 
Furtively finished on the plain. 

We have had the autumn here. But oh 
That lovely balcony is lost 

Just as the mountains take the snow. 
The soldiers will come here and train. 
'The streams will chatter as they flow. 



It is this deep blankness is the real thing strange. 

The more things happen to you the more you can't 
Tell or remember even what they were. 

The contradictions cover such a range. 

The talk would talk and go so far aslant. 

You don't want madhouse and the whole thing there. 



[It was a compass on a necklace with the poem: 

Magnetic Powers cannot harm your House 
Since Beauty, Wit and Love its walls de-Gauss. 
And if, when nights are dark, your feet should stray 
By chance or instinct to the Load of Hay 
With me drink deep and on th* uncharted track 
Let my Magnetic Power guide you back.] 

She bears your gift as one safe to return 
From longer journeys asking braver fuel 
Than a poor needle losing itself an hour 

Within a Load of Hay needs heart to learn. 
She wears the birth of physics as a jewel 
And of the maritime empires as a flower. 



Not wrongly moved by this dismaying scene 
The thinkers like the nations getting caught 
Joined in the organising that they fought 
To scorch all earth of all but one machine. 

It can be swung, is what these hopers mean, 

For all the loony hooters can be bought 
On the small ball. It can then all be taught 
And reconverted to be kind and clean. 

A more heartening fact about the cultures of man 
Is their appalling stubbornness. The sea 
Is always calm three fathoms down. The gigan- 

-tic anthropological circus riotously 
Holds open all its booths. The pygmy plan 
Is one note each and the tune goes out free. 



There is a feeling, often justified, that it is annoying when 
an author writes his own notes, so I shall give a note about 
these notes. It is impertinent to expect hard work from the 
reader merely because you have failed to show what you 
were comparing to what, and though to write notes on such 
a point is a confession of failure it seems an inoffensive one. 
A claim is implied that the poem is worth publishing though 
the author knows it is imperfect, but this has a chance of 
being true. Also there is no longer a reasonably small field 
which may be taken as general knowledge. It is imperti- 
nent to suggest that the reader ought to possess already 
any odd bit of information one may have picked up in a 
field where one is oneself ignorant; such a point may be 
explained in a note without trouble to anybody; and it does 
not require much fortitude to endure seeing what you al- 
ready know in a note. Notes are annoying when they are 
attempts to woo admiration for the poem or the poet, but 
that I hope I can avoid. Of course there are queerer forces 
at work; to write notes at all is to risk making a fool of 
yourself, and the better poems tend to require fewer notes. 
But it seems to me that there has been an unfortunate 
suggestion of writing for a clique about a good deal of recent 
poetry, and that very much of it might be avoided by a 
mere willingness to explain incidental difficulties. [1935] 

THE ANTS build mud galleries into trees to protect the green- 
fly they get sugar from, and keep them warm in the nest 
during winter. 

VALUE IS IN ACTIVITY. The beetles live underground (inside 
the globe of the earth) and are only compared to the crea- 
tures that may be in the apple; hence to the juggler. 


INVITATION TO JUNO. Di. JohnsoH Said it, somewhere in 
Boswell. lago threatened Brabantio about gennets. Ixion^ 
rides on one wheel because he failed in an attempt at mixed 
marriage with Juno which would have produced demigods, 
two-wheeled because inheriting two life-periods. 

THE world's end. Blind Satan: blind like his author Milton. 

He called so loud that all the hollow deep 
Of Hell resounded. 

Differential: they follow his movements exactly, as if calcu- 
lated like the differential coefficients used in forming this 
view of the world. 

Precludes: “stops from happening” and “already shuts.” 
End in space but blurred onto end in time conceived as 
eventual justice— “what there is of it occurs here.” 

plenum and vacuum. The scorpions kill themselves when 
put under glass and frightened with fire; Darwin tried this, 
but I forget whether it was true or not. Weal: the scar of a 
burn, made as the glass was, the ground still under control 
of their commonwealth, the circle of the glass rim, and the 
gain of death. “The veins produced eye muscles to guard the 
eyeballs from screams.” The screaming-fit is supposed to be 
abandoned by civilised people, so that the machinery of 
facial expression depends on a central reality no longer pres- 
ent. Ensanguines: makes bloody or hopeful. Matter includes 
space on relativity theory, in a logical not spatial sense, 
because from a given distribution of matter you might calcu- 
late the space-time in which it seems to move freely. The 
line is not meant to be read as anapaests. Then the space 
not in our space-time, which we cannot enter, is thought of 
as glass with the universe as a bubble in it. “Novies Styx 


interfusa coercet'^; not Hell but its surrounding hatred is real 
and a cause of action. The thought supposed to be common 
to the examples is that the object has become empty so that 
one is left with an unescapable system of things each noth- 
ing in itself. 

ROLLING THE LAWN. OuT . . . despair, said by Belial in Mil- 
ton (''in act more graceful and humane''). There was some 
advertisement urging us to roll the abdominal wall and thus 
improve our health. 

no element would receive Mahomet's body, so that it hung 
between them and would appear self-subsisting. The earth's 
orbit being an ellipse has two foci with the sum at one of 
them; one might have a complicated theory, entirely wrong, 
making the other focus the important one. I failed to make a 
pun on focus and its original sense hearth. Two minors have 
any number of reflections (the self-conscious mind); a dotted 
line is used for "and so on." The mind makes a system by 
inbreeding from a few fixed ideas. Prospero's book of magical 
knowledge was buried deeper than ever plummet sounded, 
and the depths of knowledge which had previously been 
sounded became deepest during the disaster of the Flood. 


case for hating this sort of poetry and calling it meaningless; 
I had better explain, to protect myself, that no other poem 
in the book disregards meaning in the sense that this one 
does. At the same time it is meant to be direct description. 

The first sentence is supposed to be said softly and doubt- 
fully, getting to normal tone on the last word. The main idea 
is the clash between pride in the clothes etc. and moral con- 

9 * 

tempt for it. Air: an atmosphere, a tune, a grand manner. 
The last line might look back on the ball long after, re- 
minded by the furnishings. 

SEA VOYAGE. The first and third verses are supposed to de- 
scribe the sea-cat’s claws and cat’s cradles are foam tumbling 
and sliding back.- Replyed: bent back, like a sharp answer. 
Dures: hardens the product and lasts long in itself. Aban- 
doned by the wave its parent, and a wicked little thing any- 
way. Taut: the lines of string in the game would make a knot, 
the water ice, the salt a crystal. The second verse tries to 
connect the triumphs of man with the forms of the original 
sea. Ezekiel was called the Son of Man; it might mean “any 
hero acting for, representative of, mankind.” Man himself 
in the tortures of his spirituality becomes the red rag that 
he can hold out, as in making a bull charge, to catch the 
power of the seahorses. Pillows and bobbins are used in 
making lace, like the lace of the foam; also like webs, mak- 
ing man the ingenious spider— some spiders fly on a thread 
overseas. The sail that gets up a thousand horse-power is the 
map of tracks of his voyages, lace because so full of holes; 
the trapeze is made of the parallel tracks to and from a place. 
All his experience adds to his power, and the earth sails (ac- 
cording to some astronomers) towards the constellation of 
Hercules— not towards a higher god; his origins are still in- 
herent in him, as his achievements are already inherent in 
the sea. The flower eringo (I was wrong in thinking the stress 
on the first and third syllables) made a frothed-up Eliza- 
bethan aphrodisiac; the sea can only hint by its movement 
at the powers inherent in it, like a girl not allowed to try 
out her powers in company but dressing at home. To develop 
its salts into crystals is taken to be a first stage in developing 
its powers; which need to be kept in their place, so that it is 


like the devil kept quiet by being set to make ropes of sand. 
Viewed as one cup of drink the sea is held in by the sands 
round it, from which one could make a glass goblet. The 
banquet (soup, fish, meat) follows the order of the evolution 
of species. 

HIGH DIVE. You can give a single mathematical expression 
for all the movements of the water (so contemplate it all in 
one act, like God) but this may become impossible either 
through its getting more movement or less, from its becom- 
ing solid or from the splash and eddy made by the diver. 
These are compared to the two ways down from the diving- 
board, solid and airy, one of which the man must take; hence 
to the idea that one must go from the godlike state of con- 
templation even when attained either into action which 
cannot wholly foresee its consequences or into a fixed con- 
dition, due to fear, which does not give real knowledge and 
leads to neurosis. A wolf tried to eat the sun in Northern 
mythology during eclipses. ^ is a general name for the po- 
tential function, Aton the heretical Egyptian sun-god with 
hands at the ends of its rays; both are connected with the 
horse chariot of the classical sun-god. The maggots are the 
rippling reflections that show the movement of the water 
and suggest cantering horses. Hare-hunters wore green coats. 
Thicker than water as blood is in the proverb; I am using 
F. M. Cornford’s theory that the order behind the “physical” 
world was originally thought of as the life-blood of the tribe, 
so that it changes when that does (there is a fear of society 
in the feeling that you must take the dive once you have 
gone up). That is why the water of the tank, taken in con- 
templation as the universe, is called phusis and agglutinate 
and liable to clog. A termite city actually uses dung for its 
concrete, but a scab suggests creatures shapeless if you re- 


move their shells. The puppy was carrying a bone over a 
bridge and dived after the reflection and lost the bone. 

TO AN OLD LADY. First three words from “King Lear.” Our 
earth without a god’s name such as the other planets have 
is compared to some body of people (absurd to say “the 
present generation”) without fundamental beliefs as a basis 
for action. When a hive needs a new queen and the keeper 
puts one in the bees sometimes kill her. Her precession is 
some customary movement of the planet, meant to suggest 
the dignity of “procession.” The unconfined surface of her 
sphere is like the universe in being finite but unbounded, but 
I failed to get that into the line. 

PART OF mandevil’s TRAVELS. Grovely, the spelling of the 
original, means “of gravel” but suggests graves. Milton said 

on the snowy top 

Of cold Olympus ruled the middle air, 

Their highest heaven, 

which doesn’t fit; the boast was only that the Christian 
heaven was higher. The Roof of the World is, I believe, the 
Himalayas; the geography here is as dim as Mandevil’s. 
“Spears (first shoots of the metal trees— of man’s use of 
metal) poke up above ground in the basin of the river during 
the dawn; the same spears at noon tower like cranes, and 
before night are engulfed and leave the plain bare; they are 
upheld only by sand which goes deeper than their roots.” 
I meant the motor service from Baghdad to Haifa, though 
that is far enough from where Herr Trinckler was. The week- 
end is copied from Mandevil. The motto is the King’s remark 
at the beginning (as quoted in the papers). 


CAMPING oirr. The intention behind the oddness of the 
theme, however much it may fail, was not to be satirical but 
to show indifference to satire from outside. She gives the 
lake its pattern of reflected stars, now made of toothpaste, 
as God’s grace allows man virtues that nature wouldn’t; the 
mist and pale (pale light or boundary) of morning have made 
it unable to reflect real stars any longer. Soap tension is meant 
to stand for the action of surface tension between more and 
less concentrated soap solutions which makes the specks fly 
apart. Their frame unties: if any particle of matter got a speed 
greater than that of light it would have infinite mass and 
might be supposed to crumple up round itself the whole 
of space-time— “a great enough ecstasy makes the common 
world unreal.” 

LETTER I. The network without fish is empty space which 
you could measure, lay an imaginary net of co-ordinates over, 
opposed in verse 3 to the condition when two stars are not 
connected by space at all; these are compared to two people 
without ideas or society in common, hence with no “physics” 
between then in what F. M. Cornford said was the primi- 
tive sense of the word. Lacking a common life-blood shared 
from one totem (showman because tragic hero) they are con- 
nected by no idea whose name is derived from “physics." A 
big enough and concentrated enough star would, I under- 
stand, separate itself out from our space altogether. Verse 4 
describes a similar failure of communication which may in 
the end happen to the sun; your circumambient foreboding 
is “the empty space round him which connects us to him 
and which you fear.” The thread was meant to be “the un- 
likely chance that we never learn to talk to them by radio 
and thus find out that they are not wise.” 


LETTER II. '"Which ravishes and re-begets me. The torch 
crumbles each fresco.'' Stocks: the early race that made the 
pictures. 'The greater part of the frescoes has gone. Those 
whom neither lust nor . . are compared to the fresco 
situation since they forget. The shifting sand is meant to 
imply that the cave may fall in and bury the explorer. They 
have a ground in common only so long as there is something 
new to find out about each other. 

ARACHNE. The caves of cavemen are thought of as by the 
sea to escape the savage creatures inland. "Man lives between 
the contradictory absolutes of philosophy, the one and the 
many, etc. As king spider man walks delicately between two 
elements, avoiding the enemies which live in both. Man 
must dance, etc. Human society is placed in this matter like 
individual men, the atoms who make up its bubble." The 
spider's legs push down the unbroken surface of the water 
like a soft carpet, which brings in the surface-tension idea. 
The bubble surface is called land, the thin fertile surface 
of the earth, because the bubble is of the globe of the world. 
The water saves the soap because the soap alone couldn't 
make a bubble. Arachne was a queen spider and disastrously 

THE SCALES. AHcc in Wonderland, Ulysses appearing to 
Nausicaa, and the jackal sandhole through which the heroes 
escaped in Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines. At your 
side means on the mountains compared to her, first seeming 
on toy scale then full size; the castle is a toy sand-castle, and 
the tunnels on either scale stand for difficulties of communi- 
cation; then the Nile takes on the tunnel symbolism as being 
unknown up country. 



''High hall garden'' comes in Maud and seems meant to 
suggest the long tradition visible in the height of the trees. 

EARTH HAS SHRUNK IN THE WASH: thus becoming an asteroid 
without enough gravitational force to keep its atmosphere. 
(Civilised refinement cutting one off from other people and 
scientific discovery making a strange world in which man 
has dangerous powers.) Douglas Fairbanks jumps from motor 
to express in some film, but they were going in the same 
direction. Take, curve, starve, miss are imperatives. Under 
the new conditions man is exposed to the dangerous rays 
of the sun, once cut off by the air, not made to stand up 
straight by the tensions of a normal life, and only be able 
to get such food as there might be on another planet, which 
we couldn't digest. A planet where the food-molecules were 
mirror images of ours (right hand for left glove) would play 
this trick. I understand that in diabetes your digestion breaks 
up sugars so that at each stage the molecules have an odd 
number of carbon atoms, whereas you can only digest those 
with an even number; you thus miss the beat; the new food 
is supposed to have this effect as well. Dowser is a pun on 
putting out a light and smelling out water. 

LETTER in. Quotations from Milton and Pope. True dreams 
come through the gate of horn. 

THIS LAST PAIN. Her: the soul, the mistress; he: mean, the 
housemaid. But \0sely: "it is good practical advice, because 
though not every ideal that can be imagined can be achieved, 
man can satisfy himself by pretending that he has achieved 
it and forgetting that he hasn't." This touches Mr. Wittgen- 
stein neither as philosophical argument nor as personal re- 


mark. The idea of the poem is that human nature can con- 
ceive divine states which it cannot attain; Mr. Wittgenstein 
is relevant only because such feelings have produced phi- 
losophies different from his. “As the crackling of thorns 
under a pot, so is the laughter of a fool.” A watched pot 
never boils, and if it boiled would sing. The folly which 
has the courage to maintain careless self-deceit is compared 
to the mock-regal crown of thorns. By the second mention 
of hell I meant only Sheol, chaos. It was done somewhere 
by missionaries onto a pagan bonfire. 

DESCRIPTION OF A VIEW. Boilcd in add as in cleaning a speci- 
men and like the process of making concrete; laid on glass 
like the cleaned specimen because of the shop windows at 
the bottom. Stretched in is rather illogical; the stalk of the 
crane, hanging level over the unfinished building, the beam 
of a balance, the horizon, and a Zeppelin all “stretch along.” 
Impiously because God promised not to send a Flood again 
and marked the promise with the rainbow; a high sealine 
would mean that the sea would pour in. Down is light brown 
hair on white flesh compared to the dry grass on chalk downs, 
compared to the rusted metal over the white building. 

NOTE ON LOCAL FLORA. That image: the forest fire is like the 
final burning of the world. 

LETTER IV. I left this out of the 1935 edition because the 
basic feelings seemed to have nothing to do with the moral, 
arrived at by allegorising Eddington; it seemed sententious. 
I have tinkered with it a bit since, perhaps making it tidier 
rather than better. 


DOCTRINAL POINT. I meant here to compare together the 
cope of heaven which protects the earth (a world that seems 
complete to those inside it, like that of the flowers), the cope 
of the priest-king that symbolises the protection of heaven, 
the calyx that protects the growing flower, the rainbow re- 
peating the divine promise, the Heaviside layer that keeps 
off ultra-violet rays (taken as ''freer'^ than the traditional 
solid cover), and vaults over tombs under the ground from 
which the flowers have risen. Also man was given authority 
over-all the creatures, but this involves much toiling and 
spinning, as when in over-alls. 

LETTER V. A locus defines a surface by points and an en- 
velope defines it by tangents. Knot chance— \vhtxt the con- 
nection of thought they make possible spreads itself into an 
actual meaning; pun with ''not.'' Grit round which the pearl 
grew. Your curve is the curve of the mirror which makes it 
reflect a wide area, like a camera obscura, but gives the reflec- 
tion an odd geometry as in non-Euclidean space, so that you 
can't imagine yourself inside it. "You make me know about 
the states though you do not come from them, are not known 
there, and do not yourself know about them." That has been 
shown by the effect of the cause, as in the argument that 
there must at least be a structure in the external world cor- 
responding to that of our sense-impressions. Imply but to 
exclude repeats the idea of defining a volume by tangents all 
outside it. The Principle of Duality states that every proposi- 
tion of a certain kind about points has a corresponding one 
about lines; this is supposed to show that the distinction 
previously drawn was unreal. Pun on Principal, chief and 
causer. Also "the principle that lovers are inevitably two 
separate people is the rule of life, and can be made to work.” 
To invert lines into points is to apply the principle; the lines 


are in part the lines of the poem. And even without this 
process the tangents are arrows which though missing you 
may still hold you. 

BACCHUS. A mythological chemical operation to distil drink 
is going on for the first four verses. The notion is that life 
involves maintaining oneself between contradictions that 
can’t be solved by analysis; e.g. those of philosophy, which 
apply to all creatures, and the religious one about man being 
both animal and divine. Drink is taken as typical of this 
power because it makes you more outgoing and unselfcritical, 
able to do it more heartily— e.g. both more witty and more 
sentimental. These two = the salt and water sublimed and 
distilled over from the retort = the sea from which life arose 
and to which the proportions of all creatures’ blood are still 
similar. Man is the goblet, flask, vessel which receives what 
the retort sends over. Thick glass cracks under heat from 
getting different expansions inside and outside, and if the 
flask has a flat bottom, so as to stand up alone, it cracks 
along the angle. Having to be round it is the same shape 
as a sky-map or world-map; man cannot stand alone because 
he is dependent both on earth and heaven. The retort is also 
the answer of Jupiter to Semele, when he appeared in his 
own nature, burnt her, and begot Bacchus. Glaricer: she 
looked both ways and wanted heaven as real as earth. The 
angel at Bethesda troubled the waters when they were ready 
to heal you. Thicker than water: sea water is a stronger salt 
solution than blood, presumably because the sea has got 
salter since we cut ourselves off from it. “Blood is thicker 
than water,” but blood connects us with near relations, as 
the phrase is used, and this with all life. CymfcaZ— “symbol,” 
whirled— “world.” 

In the second verse a god inside the flask making the brine 


into drink is Noah or Neptune managing the sea. The point 
is to get puns for both violent disorder and building a struc- 
ture— what strength or wisdom the drink gives comes through 
disturbing you. Noah of course has a reputation for drinking. 

Co/ic— coping-ston© and to manage, groynes— breakwaters, 
the meet of Gothic arches, the sex of the horses. The same 
kind of control is needed inside your head, a place also 
round and not well known (miner— “minor”), and it requires 
chiefly a clarifying connection with the outside world, e.g. 
by the arches of the eye, whose iris (rainbow) promises safety 
as to Noah. The externalised Logos is a sort of promise that 
the outside world fits our thoughts. Christ walked on the 
water and the doves of Noah’s ark and of the Holy Spirit 
before creation brooded over it; the idea is that you control 
the disorder of the outside world by sharing it and delight- 
ing in it. Columbus, unfortunate in life, like the Spirit called 
“dove,” once puzzled people about how to stand an egg on 
its end; the answer was to crack the shell. He is Humpty 
Dumpty the egg and a foam omelette because wisdom via 
drink requires breaking eggs, giving up static control; thus 
making the world go round, like a drunk’s head; but he is 
judge as well as horsetamer— equifarfion is riding and justice, 
bar is sea horizon, drinking saloon, and law court. Beating 
the bounds was a process of whipping schoolboys at places 
where it was important to remember boundaries of property; 
Humpty’s wall is remembered because he fell off it. Then 
the cloud of vapour coming into the flask from the retort 
is called the cloud that Juno made Ixion mistake for herself. 
A cock “treads” a hen in copulating, and treading wet mud 
makes a solid floor. To “divine” something is hardly more 
than to guess at it, but Ixion produced a divine centaur, tutor 
of heroes, though he guessed wrong. Getting only the blind 
eyes of pride on her peacocks’ tails he trampled them into 


stars (on the solid firmament that keeps out the water); hence 
like the eyes before and behind on the beasts of the Revela- 
tion they were connected with both inner and outer and 
could give truth. For that matter even the passive Narcissus 
like a dementia praecox case might be seeing the sky not 
himself in his pool. The error is built into a truth by a wild 
enough belief in it; and this process though chaotic is trans- 
ferable; it can get its connection with at least a social “outer 
world/' because other people can be made to think the same. 
Thus Ixion on the wheel of torture in hell is at the tiller- 
wheel of the turning earth. I find the poem is giving hearty 
praise to people like Hitler and Mrs. Eddy in this aspect of 
Bacchus. Boxing the compass is going in all directions but 
also putting all space in your own box; then compassing his 
appeal is getting what he wanted. Then a settling process 
has to follow this; the flask is being cooled by dripping ether 
over it, a process only used for urgently rapid cooling; if the 
flask is a man he is given an anaesthetic; and the other kind 
of ether can be taken as the empty space the round earth 
cools into. As the earth was once molten its firm surface can 
be called wheal as the scar of a burn, as well as “weal" as in 

In the third verse the fire under the retort is given by 
Prometheus, who escaped from heaven with the gift of fire 
hidden in a reed. As before, the violent thing can be punned 
with a measuringrod for building; Rev. xxi is where the angel 
measured the city of heaven with a reed. It might also be 
a yard of the stallions, who appear now under Tartar horse- 
men, laying waste the land round the Caucasus on which 
Prometheus is chained. In China it was felt as a major 
atrocity story that the Japanese had turned their horses into 
the ricefields, a thing apparently not done in the civil wars. 
We have got here to the quarrelsome stage of drink, but the 


god of political thinker who brings it is separate from it and 
can't control it. 

Taught is what he did, but he is now ''taut"; Prometheus 
stretched helpless along the glaciers is compared to the flame 
clinging to the glass of the retort, and its "quivers" are sup- 
posed to eke out a hint at the arches of the Tartar bowmen. 
As in Shelley he is still helping man by keeping a secret, 
and drinking the cup of sacrifice (Mark x); one of the vul- 
tures at his liver may be cirrhosis and another remorse. Any- 
way the drink is now chiefly needed for anaesthetic. Aether 
meant the upper air, and he is fixed high where the air smells 
dry and choking, like ether. Ether and chloroform smell to 
me much alike though only chloroform has got chlorine in 
it, so I swap drugs to bring in poison gas. There is meant 
to be a comparison between the political case and the per- 
sonal one; in a drunken quarrel a man tends to forget the 
cause and get angrier from an internal disunion. 

For the fourth verse Mercury brought a thermometer to 
control the reaction by knowledge, but it burst and the mer- 
cury spoilt everything, A herm was a phallic household cult- 
statue, a minor version of this god, and an aberration of the 
planet gave the first evidence for relativity. The snakes round 
his staff were also used for Bacchus, as I remember, hidden 
under the ivy, and I connect them with the serpent that 
gave knowledge of good and evil; because in this verse we 
have reaehed the neurotic effects of drink; a state of over- 
consciousness needing continual stimulus from outside, too 
much of the outer world, as before there was too little. One 
of the asteroids is called Bacchus, but I assume this is the 
name of the planet they once all made together, only it 
burst; the bursting of the retort produces incomplete men, 
solitary drinkers. These men have their mettle eaten into by 
mercury, which attacks other metals. I forget what a silver 


crucible was used for in Stinks at school, but remember how 
fatal it was to put mercury in; we pronounced the scaly 
result amalgam, which the verse needs; the crucible had little 
flange arms and seemed an alchemical man via Ecclesiastes’ 
silver cord and golden bowl. Houses are supposed to be 
given free with the plumbing in America; God’s temple was 
not built with hands. I was thinking of Mandevil when I 
wrote “so soon,” though it would be absurd to pretend that 
this is part of the poem; he says that Adam was only in 
Eden for half an hour, “so soon he fell.” This paste which 
mercury makes with metals is used for the backs of mirrors, 
a symbol of self-consciousness; scales fell from the eyes of 
blind men healed by Christ, but in this neurotic state further 
clarifying is no good, though the scales can go on peeling 
off as from lepers. We have left behind the active politicians 
but not the thinkers; the non-alcoholic Nietzsche seems a 
likely example. 

After this look-round of the subject I try to present a per- 
son feeling tragic exultation in it. Coping is a term used 
about finishing brickwork, as well as for the coping-stone of 
an arch, and for the cope which isolates and gives divine 
authority to a priest; the coping of the fire in a room manages 
it, does not let it bum the house down. 

Cast is both “threw” and “made a cast in metal.” The 
parabola is both the path of a forward fall and the shape 
of the reflector that throws directly forward all the light of a 
motorcar lamp; it has one focus at the lamp and the other 
at the skyline before it. Arachne who out of pride against 
the pride of Juno hanged herself in her own web and became 
a spider is here a gossamer spider, who can fly on it. A 
Tracer bullet lights in the air to show its path, whereas a 
photon though like a particle has no position till it hits; 
rockets were used to send ropes to save people off wrecks. 


The idea is that the puzzle of the Mercuiy section about 
neurotic self-consciousness (you can’t know the position of 
a photon without destroying it) has been outfaced. Any 
actual car-lamp makes a fan instead of one beam; this is 
supposed to bring in “his fan is in his hand, and he shall 
throughly purge his floor” and “make straight in the desert 
a highway . . . every mountain shall be made low.” King 
Lear says he is bound upon a wheel of fire. Span is meant 
for spanned and spun. The final arches are cellars under- 
ground such as the grave. 

YOUR TEETH. There was a toothpaste advertisement saying 
your teeth are ivory castles and must be defended. Critics 
often say that modern poetry retires into an ivory tower, 
doesn’t try to make contaet with a reader, or eseapes facing 
the problems of the time. I try to defend it by saying that 
there is a good deal of defence in ordinary life (talking or 
biting). A critic like Dr. Leavis can speak with the same 
tone of moral outrage about an Escapist (sentimental) novel 
as a customs official would about Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 
say; but this being over-simple, I was claiming, is itself a way 
of escaping the complexity of the critic’s problem. 'The rela- 
tion of the artist to his society may include acting as safety 
valve or keeping the fresh eye, etc., of the child, and there- 
fore can’t be blamed out of hand for escapism or infantilism. 
Then the poem drifts off onto the stock defence that poets 
have to be obscure because something has gone wrong with 
the public. Our civilisation has been built up on two accepted 
but apparently irreconcilable ideals, worldly and Christian, 
and this gives a good deal of freedom— people with different 
views are still in contact because they are only finding dif- 
ferent ways of resolving the same contradictions. It is not 
clear that in the new great machine or mass societies, which 


accept neither ideal, there is the same room for the artist. A 
star just too faint to be seen directly can still be seen out 
of the corners of your eyes; Max Beerbohm described some 
hero of the esthetic movement as looking life straight in 
the face out of the very corners of his eyes. I suppose the 
reason I tried to defend my clotted kind of poetry was that 
I felt it was going a bit too far. 

AUBADE. The same war in Tokyo then was the Manchurian 

THE FOOL, ETC. I haven’t been able to ask Miss Hatakeyama’s 
permission to re-publish these “translations” of her work. 
My part was only to polish up her own English version, and 
I do not think I added a metaphor or a thought. Maybe I 
ought to make clear that she has nothing to do with the 
Aubade poem. 

FOUR LEGS. It struck me passing through Cairo that the 
Sphinx has a look of pathetic and devoted publie spirit (like 
a good deal of Egyptian work) which makes the popular idea 
of her as a sinister mystery seem off the point. This made 
me think about Oedipus, who destroyed an ogre-like Sphinx 
by answering its riddle, and therefore had bad luck— at least 
they made him king out of gratitude for this feat, and that 
was how he came to marry his mother. He killed his father 
at a crossroad between the three towns of my 6rst line; they 
seem meant to symbolise three ways of life, rather as the 
legs in the riddle do. A delta is a mathematical expression 
for the area of the triangle, here zero; he short-circuited life 
by keeping it all in the family. A metaphysician (somebody 
said) is like a blind man looking for a black cat in the dark 
which isn’t there, and black cats are for luck. As Oedipus 


was wholly unconscious of his crimes it is uncertain whether 
he had an Oedipus complex, and he answered the riddle 
merely by saying Man, not by telling us anything about him. 
Napoleon's romantic paint can just be seen on her face; it is 
denied that her nose was broken by a deliberate cannon-shot 
of his. I have never seen anything in print about how dra- 
matically she is placed between the desert and the sown; it 
seems that she always was, but at one time the river ran 
close under her paws. 

ROCHESTER. The idea is that nationalist war is getting to a 
crisis because the machines make it too dangerous and ex- 
pensive to be serviceable even in the queer marginal ways 
it used to be. However, actually, if you think of Jenghis, 
Tamburlane, and William harrowing the north of England, 
it is not clear that the new methods of destruction have yet 
proved themselves so much more effective than the old 
ones.* The mind uses unconscious processes (mining under- 
ground) and an outpouring of loose words, sometimes poi- 
sonous (gas); the reasons that make the thought of a country 
succeed can be as queer as the reasons that sometimes make 
war good for it, and a mere change of proportion might make 
either fail to work any longer, 

COURAGE. Fearful and Muchafraid of course are characters 
in Bunyan. Bard and hack I suppose come in a bit oddly, 
but the point is to join up the crisis-feeling to what can be 
felt all the time in normal life. 

SUCCESS. Dostoevsky had a kind of illumination while wait- 
ing to be shot but was brought back from it by a last-minute 

* Here and at some later points these notes are marked by their date, 
which was 1940, but there seems no need to alter them on that account. 

reprieve. I can't feel that the line about ''afterlight" comes 
off; the idea is that the glow after sunset with its peace is a 
kind of proof that the day was real or good, and the Will o' 
the Wisp is assumed to be like it. Doubting drugs is meant 
to be both doubting whether they have been used and doubt- 
ing the value of what they have given. 

MISSING DATES. It is truc about the old dog, at least I saw 
it reported somewhere, but the legend that a fifth or some 
such part of the soil of China is given up to ancestral tombs 
is (by the way) not true. 

THE TRAIN. This was when I was going to a job in China 
a few weeks after the outbreak of the Chinese war. The 
thing is about a surprised pleasure in being among Japanese 
again, though the train itself was beautiful after the Russian 
one all right. What I abhorred or rightly felt I ought to 
abhor was Japanese imperialism. They have got themselves 
into a tragically false position, I think; the Chinese with 
their beautiful good humour were always patient when I told 
them I was more sorry for the Japanese than for China. 
Manchouli is the frontier town. 

REFLECTION FROM ANITA LOOS. There is a strong paragraph 
in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes about Louie's spats. Dorothy 
told him to take them off, because "Fun's fun, but a girl 
can't laugh all the time." When she saw his socks she told 
him to put his spats back on. Unconsciously generalising 
from the fine character of Dorothy, I seem to have taken 
a very feminist view here; actually no doubt women are 
about as ambitious as men. The lime is meant to be birdlime 
(also hanged criminals are buried in ordinary lime). I had 
better say some more about the line, as many readers may 


find it merely offensive. Anyway the religion of love pro- 
duced appalling cruelties when made a governmental insti- 
tution, but it seems arguable that the ideas of Jesus himself 
got fatally connected under the stress of persecution with 
the oflScial and moneymaking cult of blood sacrifice, which 
he had tried to combat. That he drove out of the temple 
the doves being sold for sacrifice just before he became one 
is an awful irony in his story. The way earlier societies seem 
obviously absurd and cruel gives a kind of horror at the 
forces that must be at work in our own, but suggests that 
any society must have dramatically satisfying and dangerous 
conventions; and people can put up with almost any political 
conditions, either because they are lazy or because they are 

ADVICE. ''Crash'' is a pleasant coarse canvas-like material; 
the only point of the pun is the idea that what seems smash- 
ing may turn out quite healthy. It seems the discovery that 
general paralysis is a final result of syphilis was painful to 
many old gentlemen who till then had seen nothing scan- 
dalous in their complaint. "We" who didn't do much better 
are supposed to be both people living now, when the disease 
is more curable, and politicians, etc., living now, who made 
a smash-up of international affairs though the issues and 
dangers were clearer than to the Victorians. 

CHINA. The two main ideas put forward or buried in this 
poem now seem to me false, but the thing expresses a kind 
of ignorant glee which many visitors beside myself have felt 
about China (about the vitality which lets her keep the 
beauty of her life however cut up or disorganised, a vitality 
like a jellyfish, not needing a centre), and I hope that saves 
it from being offensive. The ideas are that Japanese and 


Chinese are extremely alike, since the Japanese are merely 
a branch of the same culture with a specialised political 
tradition, and that China can absorb the Japanese however 
completely they over-run her. This common forecast might 
work out, grindingly, after a few centuries, but does not make 
her need for victory now less urgent. However, I felt that 
while I was trying to help China I need not be solemn about 

The prolonged disorder of China made everything feel 
crumbling like cheese but with an effect of new growth 
trying to start as in inclement spring weather; ''Nature^' is 
a repulsive deity, but you felt there might be something 
fertile in this struggle between her two allied fabulous crea- 
tures. The ideas of learning wisdom by not worrying and of 
getting your way by yielding, as in water, of course go a long 
way back into Chinese thought. The other nations perch 
about on rigid rules, not using laissez-faire and mutual ac- 
commodation. It is the Japanese rather than the Chinese 
who like being on hands and knees, but I was trying to mix 
them up. The Chinese coolie still regards a chair as a not 
very pleasing luxury, and China like Japan has her boat 
population all right. The Japanese missed the chair, a late 
Tang introduction, because they learned nearly all their cus- 
toms in middle T'ang. You can trace a chair with crossed 
legs like a folding stool from Mohenjodaro through sixth 
century Cambodian Buddhist sculpture to a copy of a late 
T'ang painting, and this probably shows the way the chair 
came, though not why it was adopted by the Chinese and 
dropped by the Indians. 

The hills bleed in China because the trees have been cut 
down so that the red earth crumbles and washes away; it is 
an obvious symbol of disorder. (The re-afforestation plans 
seem to work as far as they go; I never saw new trees torn 


out again.) It seems pathetic that the classical literature of 
China should be interpreted as all about the principles of 
government, when governing is the one thing she doesn't 
seem to us good at. Confucius of course believed in ruling 
by music and by rites. The earliest surviving music is Tang, 
preserved by the Japanese, but no doubt the older govern- 
mental music felt much as that does; concerned to make 
you keep your official seat and try hard, with a great deal of 
waiting for the snap, at the end of a rhythm slower than a 
heartbeat. Whereas the things the coolies sing to encourage 
their vast labours (both in Japan and China) are vaguely 
like Russian folk-music, very beautiful to us and with none 
of this complete strangeness. A bus is under^roaded when 
the road gives way under it and you spend hours digging in 
the mud and spreading branches (my friends don't seem to 
know this word, which I thought was a common one). The 
grammar is meant to run through alternate lines; I thought 
this teasing trick gave an effect of the completely disparate 
things going on side by side. 

The next verse brings in again the idea of the separation 
of the beauty of the coolie life from the official arts (I cut 
out an intervening verse about Russia, who is an important 
influence on the country now, because it seemed no use pre- 
tending I had anything to say about proletarianism). The 
paddy fields in hill country, arranged of course to make level 
patches to hold water, are extremely beautiful, look like 
microscopic photographs of bees' wings, and seem never to 
have been treated by all the long and great tradition of Far 
Eastern landscape painters. And yet they have the same sur- 
prising jerking texture as the Great Wall making its way 
round precipitous hills, and the familiar dragon of the tea- 
cups (and by this identity the real line of military or magical 
defence is the country itself). The whole business of what 


a culture can become unconscious of and still use is an 
important and strange one. China from the air is a grand 
sight, but I meant to leave room in the word flies for us 
scholarly refugees, who were forced to look at the country 
because we were escaping. 

As to the liverfluke, who comes in the Outline of Life by 
Wells, etc., its child does not kill the snail and cannot when 
fully inside be distinguished anywhere from the body of the 
snail; maybe it is not even cellular. It only puts red patches 
containing its eggs on the horns of the snail so that these 
are seen and eaten by birds. The horns grow again. There is 
a third generation which gets from the bird to the sheep, 
and the child of that has to leave the sheep and dissolve 
itself in a snail. That the thing can play these tricks without 
having any structure at all is what is so frightening; it is like 
demoniacal possession. However, to do the Japanese justice, 
a normal Japanese is still rigidly Japanese after twenty years 
of living among Chinese in China; no man could be less 
like this eerie fluke. The idea that China unlike other nations 
can keep its peculiar life going without a central organisation 
was the excuse for bringing it in. 

AUTUMN. Nan-yueh is a sacred mountain about seventy 
miles southwest of Changsha; the Arts Departments of the 
Combined Universities were housed on it for a term in 1938, 
and then we moved further back to Yunnan. The ''two 
fates'' are the opposed ideals of personal immortality and of 
extinguishing yourself or merging into a world soul; the 
mountain was a god before it became the cradle of what the 
Japanese call the Zen sect. Those of the beggars who are too 
deformed to walk are carried up in baskets and placed along 
the pilgrims' route up the mountain. "Flying" of course is 
being used here for escaping ordinary troubles as well as 


other things, and the pilgrimage is a holiday. The abbot of 
the monastery on the summit might quite naturally have 
passed Greats, though I don't know that he literally has 
done. Like a gong maybe reads as rather too easy a sentiment. 
The claim is that public opinion in England during this 
decade has been commonly right while independent of its 
political leaders and the machinery of propaganda; e.g. the 
outcry over the Hoare-Laval pact and the swing-round of the 
Trade Unions to rearmament then. Chinese wines aren't 
drunk except during meals; the point about Tiger Bone was 
that I found it made a good drink to sit over when drowned 
in hot water. The tiger bones in it are supposed to make 
you brave. I hope the gaiety of the thing comes through; I 
felt I was in very good company. 

SONNET. This jree I am afraid only sounds an offensively 
false use of the great emotive term, implying merely that the 
pygmies and the rest of us had better be 'left alone." This 
may be true of pygmies, but I was trying to give the word 
the impact of a contradiction; as in Letter IV, where it 
probably doesn't come off either. The pygmy method of 
singing (on the sound-track of an excellent travel film) 
sounded spontaneous though it was a grotesque and extreme 
example of collectivism. [i947]